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New Missouri Catholic Conference executive director looks to advocate for the Church’s priorities in increasingly polarized culture

As an attorney, faithful Catholic and the new executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC), Jamie Morris is looking forward to continuing to advocate for laws that uphold the dignity of all human life.

The MCC is “a perfect opportunity to put together my interest in politics while using it for the service of the Church,” Morris said.

The Missouri Catholic Conference is the public policy agency of the Catholic Church in Missouri. The Missouri bishops serve as the MCC’s board of directors, advised by a 15-member public policy committee with members from each of Missouri’s four dioceses.

Morris joined the MCC as a legislative counsel in 2018 after nearly 14 years as an attorney with the Missouri Department of Insurance. He took over as interim executive director in June and was named the new executive director in August. Morris also serves as the MCC’s general counsel, advising Missouri’s bishops on legal matters pertaining to public policy.

The MCC’s 2022 list of public policy priorities includes protecting life, immigration, economic justice, marriage and families, religious liberty, the criminal justice system and more. It can be challenging to work at the intersection of faith and politics in an increasingly polarized society, Morris said, especially when many try to tie the Church to a political party.

“One of the biggest challenges these days is trying to get across the truth of the Church and the beauty of our teaching and social teaching to a world that very much wants to put us in a blue state/red state, left/right sort of box. The Church isn’t the church of the Republican Party or the church of the Democratic Party,” Morris said. “… It’s all intertwined. If we’re standing up for the dignity of each and every human being, that includes protection for the unborn in the womb, standing up for the single mom, for the refugee, for the prisoner.”

One of the highlights of Morris’ time with the MCC so far came during his first year working with the Missouri General Assembly, he said. The Assembly passed House Bill 126, also known as the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act,” which included several pro-life provisions including the trigger ban that now effectively outlaws abortion in the state.

“I was very proud of getting to work on that bill, even in a minor way,” Morris said. “I’ve very much benefited from the work that the Missouri Catholic Conference and all sorts of grassroots pro-life organizations did in the decades before I got to the conference.”

The MCC will continue to advocate for policies that will help mothers and families, he said.

“We’ve always been looking at ways to try to bolster programs and opportunities to help women in need. But now that we have the Dobbs decision, we just have to redouble those efforts — working to continue to fund the Alternatives to Abortion Program, working to expand healthcare options for those most in need,” Morris said.

In the 2022 legislative session, the Missouri General Assembly increased funding for the state’s Alternatives to Abortion Program to $8.6 million for fiscal year 2023, an increase of $2.2 million over last year. Funding is given to frontline social service agencies that offer support to mothers facing unplanned pregnancies, including counseling, prenatal care, housing, job placement assistance and adoption referrals when requested.

“We’ve done a tremendous job in Missouri of limiting the supply of abortions, and now the focus really has to be on the demand side of things,” Morris said.

Morris succeeds Deacon Tyler McClay, who served as MCC’s executive director for 12 years.

“I’m grateful to Deacon Tyler; he left the conference in a very good spot,” Morris said. “I am very blessed and excited to be here in this new position.”

Morris grew up in Mary’s Home, Missouri, a small town southwest of Jefferson City. He and his wife, Kristan, have three sons: Daniel, Nick and Owen. They are members of St. Joseph Cathedral Parish in Jefferson City. Kristan teaches third grade at St. Joseph Cathedral School, where their sons also attend.

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